I wonder why it is so difficult for us here in the United States to connect with our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who are suffering persecution and even martyrdom?
Recently a bishop in Kenya asked why that there was so little international response to the fact that 147 students were singled out to be murdered in a terrorist raid on a university because they were Christians. He compared it to the Charlie Hebdo terrorist killing in France that generated so much international outrage, and wondered why the Hebdo incident had generated such international outrage in Europe and North America while there was so little over the slaying of the Kenyan Christian students.
In fact here in our country we are more concerned with internecine squabbles than the fact that worldwide Christians, Catholics and Protestants, are dying for their faith in greater numbers than ever before.
Pope Francis has stated that “there are more persecuted Christians in the world today than there were in the first centuries of Christianity.” The term martyr is derived from the Greek word for witness. Referring to the persecution Christians are suffering in many areas of the Middle East, Africa and India, the Holy Father continued “when historical situations require a strong witness, there are martyrs, the greatest witnesses. And the Church grows thanks to the blood of the martyrs.”
Certainly the Pope’s words reflect what is happening in Africa. Think of the 21 Coptic Christian men beheaded this year in Libya or the 147 Christian students singled out at Garissa University in Kenya and murdered. There are many other instances, the Christian girls taken from their school in Nigeria and still held hostage or the 12 African refugees thrown into the Mediterranean to drown when it was discovered they were Christian.
All are modern-day martyrs, and all are from Africa where USA Today recently reported, “The [Christian] faith has grown exponentially in sub-Saharan Africa, from just 9% of the population in 1910 to 63% today.
Perhaps the answer to the Kenyan bishop’s question is that in our complacent comfort it is easy to turn our attention away from what others are enduring for their Christian discipleship. Or maybe, we are afraid to ask ourselves if our faith is as strong as those who are accepting martyrdom rather than denying being disciples of Jesus.
Let us continue to pray for all Christians around the world who are persecuted and murdered because of their faith.
Image credit: People attend a memorial vigil in Nairobi, Kenya, April 7, for the 147 people killed in an attack on Garissa University College. Kenyan bishops are urging the government to step up security and for citizens to remain united after al-Shabab militants attacked the college campus April 2. (CNS photo/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)